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Ill. police bugged Blago for FBI

CHICAGO, May 2 (UPI) -- Rod Blagojevich's attorney said Monday prosecutors have "nothing" on the former Illinois governor, who is on trial again on federal corruption charges.

Opening statements were delivered in a Chicago courtroom after U.S. District Judge James Zagel denied a defense motion to scuttle the jury and start over. The judge ruled that if the panel was contaminated as the defense contended, it was mostly because Blagojevich "invited juror opinion" by continually talking to the media, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

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The trial got under way the same day the newspaper reported it had gleaned from state records that Illinois state Police had secretly bugged Blagojevich's campaign office at the behest of the FBI.

In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner narrowly focused his comments, and defense attorney Aaron Goldstein dropped the flash and offered up a few objections, the newspaper said.

"The governor of Illinois was shaking people down," Niewoehner said. "He was abusing his power as governor to get something for himself, and every time he tried to shake someone down, he violated the trust of the people of Illinois, and he violated the law."

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Goldstein said in his opening the trial is "a tale of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

"In the end," the defense attorney said, "do you think they found a bag of cash, do you think they found a secret bank account? They found nothing because there is nothing."

The Sun-Times said its discovery of the police bugging episode appeared to stun Blagojevich and his wife Patti when the newspaper revealed it to them during a recent interview.

In 2008, the state police, the agency that provided protection for Blagojevich and his family, concurrently was working covertly with the FBI, feeding the agency critical information during a vital period of the federal investigation into the governor's activities, the Sun-Times reported.

Blagojevich's team had ordered a state police tech to search the governor's North Side campaign office for bugs. He left the building assuring the governor's people no bugs existed, but the state police tech not only knew the eavesdropping devices existed, he knew where they were and knew the FBI was listening.

"Wow," Rod Blagojevich said, referring to his security detachment as "quasi-family."

One state police official, a Blagojevich appointee, quit his post in 2009 to work in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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"I have no regrets about our responsibility to the people of Illinois and our responsibility to justice," Larry Trent told the newspaper. "The balancing act of maintaining profound confidentiality while performing certain duties presented unique and difficult challenges. I believe we simply did our job as the public should expect us to do."

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